Applied Linguistics

Similarities of classical and operant conditioning/differences


According to psychology, there are two types of conditioning that guide the behavior of humans and animals, these are operant conditioning and classical conditioning. Operant conditioning starts from the basis that achieving the desired behavior requires the use of a reward and punishment, while the classic one starts from obtaining an involuntary response to a specific stimulus. Similarities of classical and operant conditioning

Operant conditioning

It is one who seeks to achieve the desired behavior or appropriate response through reward and punishment. In this case, the word operant defines how the human or animal acts or operates against the stimulus present in their environment. For example, an employee will work overtime if you are being paid.

Operant conditioning is what defines action or inaction in the face of a stimulus. If this was negative, it is likely that you will not repeat such action, if it was positive, you will repeat it. For this type of conditioning, learning is based on rewards and consequences as a result of an action performed.

The father of this type of conditioning was BF Skinner, he claimed that humans and living beings do not have free will and that their behavior depends on the consequences and circumstances that surround it.

To test this, Skinner locked a rat in a box with levers and lights. The rat learned that by pressing a lever it received food and it learned to discriminate darkness from light, because when the light was off if it pressed the lever, no food would come out.

Operant conditioning then defines that an individual operates on the environment. If a response to our actions benefits us, we will repeat it. Otherwise, we will do it to a lesser extent until we avoid it completely.

This conditioning has three elements:

1-Discriminatory stimulus

indicates the probability that the response will be followed by a reward. In the case of the rat, she knew that the lever would give it food if the light was on. Light is what tells you the presence of a reward.


it is the effect caused by the environment.


it is the event that occurs with the response and that modifies the probability of repetition of the behavior. For example, if the rat is given food when you press the lever, it will do so again.

Classical conditioning

It is the behavior that is formed by combining two stimuli . It is also known as Pavlovian conditioning. This conditioning describes an involuntary or automatic response to a specific stimulus. For example, if you go for a walk in the field and the aroma of the roses that your mother planted reaches your nose, you will inevitably think of her or have an emotional response. This reaction is completely involuntary.

Dr. Ivan Pavlov discovered this conditioning by studying dogs. He found that the animals salivated when they saw food, so he added a stimulus, rang a bell before presenting the food to the dog. In a short time, just by ringing the bell, the dog salivated, showing that it already related the bell to the food.

The elements of this conditioning are:

1-Unconditioned stimulus Similarities of classical and operant conditioning

it is an object or situation present in the environment that generates an automatic response in the body. In the case of the dog, it is food. Similarities of classical and operant conditioning

2-Conditioned stimulus

is related to the unconditioned stimulus. In the case of the dog it is the sound of the bell.

3-Conditioned response

it is the response that is given to the conditioned stimulus. In the case of the dog, it is salivation when hearing the bell.

4-Unconditioned response

is the one that is given to the unconditioned stimulus. In the case of the dog, it is salivation when seeing food.

Similarities of classical and operant conditioning Similarities of classical and operant conditioning

Operant and classical conditioning are psychological techniques used by psychologists, therapists, counselors, and social workers to help clients overcome psychological problems and problems. Although operant and classical conditioning differ in many ways, they also have important similarities.

1-Classical conditioning

Before discussing the similarities between classical and operant conditioning, it is important to understand each concept individually. According to “Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy,” by Gerald Corey “Classical conditioning (respondent conditioning) refers to what happens before learning that creates a response through bonding.” A famous example of this is Ivan Pavlov’s experiment with dogs. When dogs heard a bell sound when they were fed, the dogs finally salivated just by hearing the bell. However, if the bell was rung several times, but no food was presented, the dogs stop when they heard the bell. Classical conditioning is famous for its use of systemic desensitization.

2-Operant conditioning Similarities of classical and operant conditioning

According to Gerald Corey’s “Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy,” Operant Conditioning “involves a type of learning in which behaviors are primarily influenced by the consequences that follow.” This means that if individuals receive some kind of positive reinforcement for their behaviors, they follow those behaviors; but if they receive negative or no reinforcement of their behaviors, those behaviors are stopped. Operant Conditioning states that learning can occur only in conjunction with positive and negative reinforcement and positive and negative punishment.

3-Theoretical similarities

Classical and operant conditioning are psychological theories that originated in the field of behavior therapy, a precursor to modern cognitive-behavioral therapy. Classical and operant conditioning are therapies not based on knowledge, which means that insight, or awareness, is not a requirement for change as in other psychological approaches such as psychoanalytic therapy and existential therapy. Basically, classical and operant conditioning stipulate that behaviors can be changed without going into the cause of the behavior, the past, or the subconscious.

4-Practical similarities Similarities of classical and operant conditioning

In practice, classical and operant conditioning are used primarily to treat phobias. However, according to Corey Gerald in “Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy,” classical and operant conditioning have also been used to treat nightmares, obsessions, depression, compulsions, anorexia, and anxiety. The classical conditioning technique of desensitization has been empirically proven and is one of the most widely used treatment techniques in psychology today. Both techniques are used primarily by cognitive behavioral therapists, as pure behavioral therapy is rarely used in clinical practice anymore.

Differences between operant and classical conditioning

  1. Classical conditioning was developed by the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov and is based on learning by reflex responses and not by will.
  2. The elements of classical conditioning are the unconditioned response, the conditioned response, the unconditioned stimulus, and the conditioned stimulus.
  3. Operant conditioning states that behaviors are reinforced or eliminated through rewards or punishments. Reinforcement can modify the behavior of the individual, which led its creator: Frederic Skinner, to establish that there is no free will.
  4. Operant conditioning is made up of the following elements: discriminative stimulus, response, and reinforcer.
  5. Operant conditioning states that the response is voluntary and the behavior is operant.

    Similarities of classical and operant conditioning

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